Bright Lights, Big Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: September 26th, 2023

Genre: Christmas, Romance, Holiday, Fiction, Contemporary, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction, Adult, Contemporary Romance

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

From Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of The Homewreckers and The Santa Suit, comes a novella celebrating love and the warm, glittering charm of the holiday season.

When fall rolls around, it’s time for Kerry Tolliver to leave her family’s Christmas tree farm in the mountains of North Carolina for the wilds of New York City to help her gruff older brother & his dog, Queenie, sell the trees at the family stand on a corner in Greenwich Village. Sharing a tiny vintage camper and experiencing Manhattan for the first time, Kerry’s ready to try to carve out a new corner for herself.

In the weeks leading into Christmas, Kerry quickly becomes close with the charming neighbors who live near their stand. When an elderly neighbor goes missing, Kerry will need to combine her country know-how with her newly acquired New York knowledge to protect the new friends she’s come to think of as family,

And complicating everything is Patrick, a single dad raising his adorable, dragon-loving son Austin on this quirky block. Kerry and Patrick’s chemistry is undeniable, but what chance does this holiday romance really have?

Filled with family ties, both rekindled and new, and sparkling with Christmas magic, Bright Lights, Big Christmas delivers everything Mary Kay Andrews fans adore, all tied up in a hilarious, romantic gem of a novel.

First Line:

Kerry Clare Tolliver couldn’t remember a time when the smell of a Fraser fir tree didn’t make her smile.

Bright Lights, Big Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews

Important things you need to know about the book:

Bright Lights, Big City was a fast-paced book. It took me over two days to finish reading. The author could have slowed the book’s pacing down a little, but considering that it takes place from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the pacing suited it. There was some lag toward the book’s latter half (during the search for Heinz), but it didn’t affect my enjoyment.

There are trigger warnings in Bright Lights, Big Christmas. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book. They are:

  • Bullying (on page: Kerry and Murphy experience bullying from their competition)
  • Cheating (off-page: Kerry reveals her parents divorced because of her father’s cheating)
  • Death (off-page: Heinz’s boyfriend died three years into their relationship from a brain aneurysm)
  • Depression (off and somewhat on page: Heniz suffered from a deep depression for years over George’s(his boyfriend) death)
  • Divorce (off-page: Kerry’s parents are divorced)
  • Homophobia (off-page: Heinz reveals that his parents disowned him because he is gay)
  • Theft (on page: The competing tree stand steals Murphy’s cart that he uses to deliver Christmas trees)
  • Illness (on page: Heinz is severely ill with the flu)
  • Violence: (off-page: Murphy settles a dispute with the competition that results in bloody knuckles)

Sexual Content: There is no explicit sexual content in Bright Lights, Big Christmas. There are a couple of kissing scenes and one scene where I think Kerry and Patrick hooked up (not sure).

Language: There is some mild language in Bright Lights, Big Christmas.

Setting: Bright Lights, Big Christmas is set mainly in Greenwich Village, New York City. There is a chapter where the book is set in Tarburton, North Carolina.

Plot Synopsis (as spoiler-free as I can get):

When Kerry Tolliver’s larger-than-life father, Jock, suffers a heart attack and has surgery afterward, she volunteers to go to New York City to sell Christmas trees in his place. Since losing her job, Kerry has been floating along, and she figures that New York City is perfect to reinvent herself. At first, New York City is everything that Kerry thought it would be. But, with competition set up a block away and the stand losing business, Kerry needs to focus on how to get those trees to sell. What Kerry wasn’t expecting was her attraction to Patrick, a single dad living in the brownstone the stand is in front of, and her growing affection for the residents of the street. Is Kerry and Patrick’s romance just a holiday romance? Or will they be able to make it work? What about the elderly neighbor? Will they be able to find him?

Main Characters

Kerry Tolliver: I had mixed feelings about her character. She both annoyed me and made me laugh. I know it’s a weird combination, but that’s how I feel. Kerry wasn’t the best employee (she left the stand with people she didn’t know a few times) and was kind of rude to people. But, she had a great heart. She cared about the people she met, even after knowing them for weeks. Her attraction to Patrick was a given from the first moment they met. I was looking forward to them having an enemy-to-lover type relationship, but it flipped soon after.

Patrick McCaleb: I liked him, but I did wonder if he had some complex when it came to women. His ex was difficult (and that is saying it mildly), and Kerry was a little immature for him. But he was a great guy and a great father to Austin. He also supported Kerry regarding her choices (at the end of the book).

Secondary characters: The secondary characters made this book. They added extra flavor and depth to the plotline. My favorite secondary characters were Heinz, Austin, Murphy, and Claudia.

My review:

Bright Lights, Big Christmas was a good, sweet read. The plotline was simple, and I didn’t need a diagram to understand what was happening. I didn’t need to reread chapters or pay much attention to the characters’ backstories. It was a good, clean read that made me happy and sad.

The main storyline centers around Kerry and her time in New York City. I liked the author’s version of New York City (no rude people, kind neighbors, or police that understood agreements) but found it slightly unrealistic. But that unrealistic part made this book so good to read. I liked seeing Kerry interacting with the brownstone tenants and her brother. I also loved reading about her blooming relationship with Patrick (and Austin by default). My only quibble is that their romance was Instalove and what I said above about New York City.

The other storyline centers around Kerry, Patrick, Austin, and Heinz. This storyline was a sweet storyline that made me tear up a little bit. I also got very aggravated with Austin’s mother for her assumptions, but no harm was done at the end of the day. Heinz’s backstory, almost at the end of the book, was heartbreaking. I also loved what he offered Kerry.

As much as I dislike Instalove, I did like Kerry and Patrick’s romance. It was cute, and I liked how the author did try to let it grow organically at first. The romance felt forced by the end of the book, but I chalked that up to what was going on and Kerry’s decision.

I saw the end of Bright Lights, Big Christmas coming since the middle of the book. I liked that the author wrapped everything up the way she did. But I did have questions about Murphy and Claudia. I hope the author writes their story next.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and Mary Kay Andrews for allowing me to read and review this ARC of Bright Lights, Big Christmas. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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